GOP Doesn’t Believe Christian Extremism Exists

Plot twist! I mean, that is an attention-grabbing headline, right? Total clickbait. As a Christian, that title sets my blood boiling. How is it fair to condemn an entire religion of 2.18 billion people based on the actions of a handful of violent men – for example, the recent mass shooters – who don’t follow the tenets of the very religion they claim to follow?

Jesus goes on and on about loving our enemies and turning the other cheek. He’s obviously not cool with his followers committing murder. When Simon Peter cuts off the ear of the soldier arresting Jesus, our Savior reattaches the man’s ear and tells his followers to put away their swords. A Christian cannot be violent against his fellow man and claim to be following the teachings of Jesus Christ. Since over 70 percent of religious Americans are Christian, this explanation is superfluous – you know that already. That’s why no one would write such a crazy headline.

If someone were to use this ridiculous argument, “GOP Doesn’t Believe Christian Extremism Exists,” there would be a deafening cry against the obvious anti-Christian bigotry and false equivalencies. The rafters would ring with the cry of injustice.

Yet, if we change just a few words and make it “Qasim Rashid Doesn’t Believe Islamic Extremism Exists,” would those same people speak up? On August 26th, Sen. Richard Stuart ran that exact headline in an ad. Would Republicans speak up? This week showed that almost universally, the answer is no.

When several newspapers wrote articles about Stuart’s ad, Republicans hid in a cone of silence. Those who would more than likely have lost their minds if this attack were made about them and their religion weren’t willing to stand up and say that as a party we are better than this. They wouldn’t call the ad what it was: Islamophobic click-bait.

Since Sen. Stuart didn’t give any information to support his claims and since I am a voter in the 28th Senate District, I decided to research Qasim Rashid myself. If there was the possibility of an anti-military, pro-Islamic extremist running to be my representative in the Virginia Senate, I figured that is information that I should have before heading to the polls.

I learned that Qasim Rashid has several beliefs with which I disagree. He is a rather liberal gentleman who wants to expand the reach and scale of government. He wants to repeal Virginia’s Right to Work status, and his policy statements on improving transportation are convoluted and inadequate. However, I did appreciate his stand in favor of Dad Jokes.

I also learned that Qasim Rashid has written three books about Islam. In Extremist, “[h]e writes for non-Muslims and Muslims alike, asking [people] to stand for a narrative of moderation, civility, and compassion… and invites [readers] to join the fight for tolerance.” Talk To Me: Changing the Narrative on Race, Religion, & Education is “a non-fiction memoir on how the power of dialogue can overcome racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and violence.” Rashid’s book, The Wrong Kind of Muslim: An Untold Story of Persecution & Perseverance, was described by Kirkus Reviews as “a heartfelt memoir of Muslim-on-Muslim discrimination and oppression.” So it would seem that Sen. Stuart’s claim that his opponent is an Islamic extremist apologist is a bit off the mark.

This piece is not about how great Qasim Rashid is. Like I said, I have some serious issues with many of his political views. However, there is a need to clarify who this man is in light of the accusation made by Richard Stuart because no other Republican was willing to do so. Just as we would not accept a Christian’s faith being used against them in a campaign, we should not stand quietly by while the same insinuation is made against a non-Christian just because they are a minority and the tenants of their faith are not as known as those of the majority.

We are not an ochlocracy; we are not ruled by the wishes of the mob. James Madison, a fellow Virginian, wrote in Federalist No. 51, “If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure … Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society.” This is a founding principle of the republic, and when we cease to work towards that goal, we turn our faces away from the very justice that Republicans have claimed to stand for for over 150 years.

Perhaps it is a desire to help the Republican Party that keeps people silent when one of our own steps over the line. The thinking may be that if we point out when one of our own is being intolerant, then it will confirm the things that others say about Republicans. The problem is that the roar of silent acceptance of this behavior effectively does the opposite and confirms those stereotypes with each stifled mumble of, “No comment.”

Sen. Richard Stuart’s three simultaneous attack ads against Qasim Rashid are a shameless scare ploy. Two of the three mention his opponent’s “Radical Agenda,” which in terms of open borders and government-run health care might be a fair description. However, when Stuart mixes that message with Islamic Extremism, the use of the term “Radical Agenda” takes on a different, more Islamophobic flavor –and to overlook that correlation takes some willful ignorance.

Compounding the problem is the fact that Republicans should not have to debase themselves by sliding into these types of loaded arguments in order to win elections. Republicans have traditionally had positive ideas for solving the problems facing this country, and we ran on those ideas with great success. Now, it seems more often than not, we spend our campaigns running against “the other” instead of for our ideas.

The good news is that there is still time to change this trend. It is only September after all, and there are still two good months of campaigning laid out in front of us. Republicans can demand that our nominees run on ideas and not fear, by calling candidates out when they cross into unacceptable territory. Campaigns bend away from talking about justice and instead lean towards division because they think it will work and that they can get away with it.

Our Founders were well aware of man’s faults. Going back to Federalist No. 51, Madison acknowledged as much when he wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” We are not angels, but we can endeavor towards more angelic behavior. False claims, fear-mongering, and calculated division do not lift the angelic toward heaven nor do they lift the political towards victory. The Republican Party has good ideas; we should run on them and leave petty tactics on the ground with lesser men.